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NASA LISA Study Team Releases Science Support Taskforce Report

30 June 2020

One charge for the US NASA LISA Study Team was to discuss the kind of data LISA can provide to scientists and the community, and to analyze the impact that various levels of access, latency, and user support have on the ability of the US community to maximize the discovery potential of the ESA-led LISA mission. To that end, the NASA LISA Study Team spent several months surveying the community, discussing the various options, and compiling a report on the topic for NASA. The completed report was submitted to NASA’s Astrophysics Division on 28 Feb 2020.

Empowering LISA Discovery: An Analysis of Data Access and Support for the US Science Community

28 February 2020

[Full Report PDF]

Abbreviated Summary:

The NASA LISA Study Team (NLST) has been tasked by NASA to study how NASA might support US scientists to participate in the scientific exploitation of LISA data, and how US scientists might participate in the science ground segment and access LISA data through public release. At the time of this report, the LISA Project at ESA is in the middle of Phase A, early in formulation. In this document, the NLST has taken the current understanding of these components of the mission and extrapolated to a projected ground segment, data products and data analyses in order to represent what a future LISA user community might experience. Of necessity, those projections are incomplete and speculative, and should not be construed as final or agreed upon by ESA, the LISA Consortium, or NASA.

With that caveat, the report arrived at the following general findings:

  • A broad spectrum of US researchers are expected to want access to LISA data products, and only about half of those are willing to join a Consortium for access.
  • Those researchers will carry out a broad spectrum of research, dependent on the extent of NASA’s support.
  • Pre-cursor science will prepare the community and enhance the research return.
  • The novel nature of the instrument and the data will stimulate many researchers to seek access to deep levels of data. The most demanding science depends on deep access, from pre-launch testing to the earliest phases of the data processing.
  • Prompt, public release of data products, with suitable support, will increase the scientific productivity of the mission through increased participation and diverse thinking.
  • Coordination with electromagnetic observatories, particle detectors and ground-based gravitational-wave interferometers will be essential to the production and scientific utilization of LISA data products, most notably through low-latency alerts.
  • A fuller array of tools, documentation and resources will expedite the research of US scientists.
  • The US research community would benefit from maximal, expeditious access to LISA data products and from participation at all levels of data analysis—from the earliest data products to catalogs.
  • The most pressing activities are: studying and simulating the data analysis process, familiarizing and training non-GW researchers to work with LISA data, cultivating early-career researchers and precursor science, formulating the US LISA ground segment, and engaging in the deepest details of instrument design, analysis and testing to the greatest extent possible.
  • The science productivity of a facility-class mission is greatly enhanced by a full-featured science center and an open access data model. US Science Center could facilitate entry into LISA science by; serving as a portal for the US community to access LISA data products, supporting independent processing pipelines, facilitating astrophysics and fundamental research, providing an interface into the subtleties of the instrument, training new users, and expanding the research community. An early adoption model may be especially important for a novel mission like LISA.

The European Space Agency LISA observatory

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